My second child came the night that I decided that I was probably never going to go into labor and that I was going to reabsorb the baby. He was two days overdue and instead of feeling “close” to giving birth I felt that we would go another couple of weeks easily. Something that I didn’t relish the prospect of, as my care provider was zealous about inducing at 41 weeks.
Three hours after the first contractions he was born into the hands of the flustered resident that leaped over the birthing bed, briefly considered breaking the bed down as she had been trained to do, and reconsidered as this second child of mine had his own timeline firmly established. The doctor that they had paged was never able to make it.
His older brother had looked like a baby dragon, but A. looked like an army grunt. Close cropped hair with a widow’s peak that looked like someone had given him a buzz cut. He was minutes old and had an air about him that radiated a mellow oomph.
This child of mine settled down to nurse immediately as though he had gone through basic training. He had the rhythm, the confidence, the latch, the persistence. I used lanolin once to help the chapping that came from his frequent nursing.
He gained rapidly for the first three months, and then his weight gain tanked. Slowly he sunk through the percentiles. I was caught between opposing camps. The camp that believed that there was some deficiency with my breastmilk, a school of thought that confused me because the milk that I pumped was mostly fat. My son made around 20 diapers a day and we had recently switched to cloth because the disposables would have easily bankrupted us. And the other school of thought that said he was perfectly fine because his diaper count was good and he was meeting milestones.
Caught in the middle I didn’t feel that either answer was right. There was something that was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
As it turned out, this little guy was severely tongue tied. Diagnosing a tongue tie has become a bit of a lost art and it is not widely understood that the tongue has many types of movement necessary for a baby to nurse effectively. The “one step” test of “can the tip of the tongue extend over the lower lip” is a terrible test.
Once the tongue tie was clipped, all of the little issues disappeared and my little army grunt rose back to where he was supposed to be in the percentiles.
Ironically, of my three children the one with a severe tongue tie was the “best” nurser from the start.
Breastfeeding him was easy from the beginning. He had clear cues. He’d nurse until he was done and then he’d want a pacifier despite not having been given one before six weeks. He liked to be rocked, to be held, to be worn. He liked to sleep in his own bed and didn’t wake often in the night in those first few months although as his weight gain dropped he would wake more and more frequently and developed issues that mirrored reflux.
Despite the easiness of breastfeeding it always felt different from nursing my first. There was something missing. Nursing was simply feeding with none of the hormone rushes that I had come to associate with breastfeeding. I dismissed it as “every child is different”. I had never been big on the idea that breastfeeding was bonding anyway.
As it turned out these things were all caused by the tongue tie. A simple snip and fifteen seconds of crying at eight months old fixed everything that was “broken”, and a few minutes later we were nursing for what felt like the first time.
A. went on to wean himself at eighteen months old, four months before his sister was born. He remains delighted to get mommy milk in a cup, although he’s still a grazer and will drink an ounce or so before he pours the rest onto the floor. Kid’s got his own ideas about how things are done.